I am a white male and will be moving to Joburg for a one year project. I am not looking to live in a gated community. Besides my professional work, I'm also a filmmaker. Friends who have spent time in the city have suggested the above neighborhoods as a good fit. I am looking for a neighborhood that is ideally somewhat artsy but more importantly where I can walk around relatively safely at least during the day.
Is anyone familiar with these or would make other recommendations I'd greatly appreciate your input.
Also, I am a native New Yorker so can generally handle myself in a city.
It's great that you're enjoying Joburg so far! It's definitely a really vibrant and exciting city. Word of caution though: are you referring to the white minibus taxis you see around the city? Private cabs like Uber are usually okay, but the minibus taxis are unfortunately rather dangerous at times. They're notorious for driving recklessly and unpredictably and in the past, there's been some gun violence between minibus taxis. I'm honestly not sure of the statistics - maybe it's less common than I think - but I just thought I'd mention it.
That said, I absoutely don't mean to scare you off and it would be a shame if this dampened your exploration of the city. Joburg has a lot of amazing places to discover and as long as you keep your wits about you, you should be completely fine.
Hope you continue to enjoy the city, and feel free to ask about any questions you have!
I wouldn't call Melrose an arsty suburb - if anything, it's a bit pretentious. But if that's what you're into, Melrose Arch is a place to see and be seen for Joburg's up and coming, with lots of restaurants and fancy designer shops.
Braamfontein has seen quite a revival in recent years, with lots of apartment blocks being done up, and new shops and entertainment venues popping up. It's also in the heart of the city, so has a very differnet vibe to the other suburbs you mentioned. But safety is still an issue - it's definitely not a neighbourhood I'd walk around in at night. I was mugged there in broad day light on a busy street, so you'll need to keep your wits about you. But coming from New York, I'm sure you're used to that!
From what you've told me, these areas sound like a pretty good match for you. Braamfontein is near the University of Witwatersrand so it's quite a young and vibey area.
Maboneng is probably the artsiest area of the three - a number of local fashion designers and artists are based there. There's pretty much always some kind of event happening there so it's also good for meeting people and getting a feel for social life in Joburg.
Melrose is also a good option. It's adjacent to Rosebank, which is an area worth considering too - it has good transport links (the Gautrain) and has a similar atmosphere to Melrose.
I wouldn't necessarily say these are the safest places to stay in Joburg, and usually I recommend gated communities over apartments but since you mentioned you aren't keen on that, just be sure your new place is outfitted with a decent security system and when you're walking around in the neighbourhood (would only recommend this during the day), be aware of your surroundings to avoid being a victim of opportunistic crime.
Hope this info helps. When were you thinking of moving?